The latest killings — part of a wave of targeted assassinations often singling out women, journalists, professionals, activists and doctors — happened at a fraught moment for Afghanistan as the Taliban have made steady military gains, and relentlessly attack those deemed as collaborating with the Afghan government. Additionally, remnants of the Islamic State operating in the region have focused on carrying out fewer large-scale bombings and more smaller but targeted assaults.
Meanwhile, the United States has yet to definitively say whether it will meet the May 1 deadline for withdrawing all American forces, per an agreement the Trump administration signed with the Taliban in February 2020.
“My niece Basira was a poor girl,” said Haji Moqbel Ahmad, a tribal elder in Jalalabad, who added that the woman had not been threatened before. “She was shot and killed while she was doing her job.”
Basira, a vaccine worker since her teens, had been enlisted for a five-day vaccine campaign for which she would be paid less than $30, officials said.
The month began with the assassination of three women who worked for a television station in Jalalabad. A female television and radio presenter from the same station was gunned down in much the same way in December. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for both incidents.
The New York Times documented the deaths of at least 136 civilians and 168 security force members in such targeted killings in 2020, more than nearly any other year of the war. So far, 2021 has not seen any reprieve from the same kind of violence.
The Taliban are increasing pressure on government and society, asserting dominance as stuttering, intermittent negotiations take place to settle the Afghan conflict.